Why Go Portable?
Should you take all your application needs portable? Well, if you are running your home office on a budget, it might be worth considering. After all, open source applications like the exhaustive OpenOffice productivity suite and GIMP image editing software are nearly as powerful and full-featured as the Microsoft Office and Adobe Photoshop applications they mimic. And at zero dollars, you can't beat the price.
That said, the track record on open source alternatives to mainline applications is pretty uneven. For every Firefox or Chrome that significantly bests the market leading Internet Explorer Web browser in features, usability and performance, there are free apps that show their rough edges. The user interface for OpenOffice, for instance, comes nowhere close to the slick experience proffered by Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010. Likewise, the open source Dia flow charting application can't hold a candle to Microsoft's Visio software, though it continues to improve.
But the real value of portable software is its flexibility. And being able to drop your apps onto a thumb drive so you can run them wherever you go makes them pretty darn flexible.
Next week I'll walk through some of my favorite portable apps, including some that every home office user should keep handy.